By Tim Takechi
When some small towns face daily crises, the nearest hospital is 40 minutes away.
Not so for residents of Davenport, Wash.
The Lincoln Hospital sits on a hill overlooking Davenport's main street. Residents do not need to travel to Spokane or Moses Lake to find a better choice, says Kyp Graber Shillam, hospital spokesperson. The hospital offers many of the services of an urban medical facility but faces the challenges of a small-town business at the same time.
Monica Ward is grateful for Lincoln Hospital's proximity. When she was a fifth grader at Davenport Elementary School, Monica felt a sharp pain in her side and gradually developed a high fever. Eventually Monica felt so ill she called home. Her mother, Lori Ward, knew that her daughter's ailment was serious.
"When she crawled on the floor in pain and couldn't get up, I brought her in," Lori Ward says.
Monica Ward was immediately transferred to radiology for X-rays and learned that her appendix had to be removed as soon as possible. After successful surgery, Ward stayed at the hospital overnight. The nurses gave her a giant stuffed teddy bear and a hand-quilted blanket, items she still keeps today.
"Because it's a rural hospital, everyone knows everybody. When you walk in, you feel like you're getting special treatment. There are nurses who took time to pray," Ward says.
She remembers the numerous hospital employees who attended her church and sent their best wishes and prayers.
The community is an integral part of the hospital's history. Lincoln Hospital was founded in 1964 as the result of a grassroots movement to bring a hospital closer to Davenport. Pearl Richards led a group of concerned citizens who believed that Spokane was too far away to provide quality healthcare for the small town. The group purchased the necessary amount of land and formed what eventually became Lincoln Hospital.
The hospital today is equipped with an emergency room, surgical suite, radiology department, physical-therapy services, long-term care facilities and a helipad.
The administration faces the challenge of maintaining a quality hospital subsidized by the local community.
"We're a rural facility. We don't have the money that the guys in Spokane have," says Shillam.
Shillam says Lincoln County taxpayers and private independent donors finance the hospital's healthcare system. The Lincoln Hospital Foundation (LHF) was founded in 1989, with the goal of sustaining the quality of healthcare for the community.
Davenport donors provide cash, real estate, securities, life insurance and material gifts. The endowment benefits temporary patients, long-term patients and medical employees. Money donated to the LHF is spent on comfort items like blankets and cable television or safety features like helicopter transportation.
The institution is a member of the Rural Healthcare Quality Network (RHQN), an organization that measures healthcare quality in rural Washington. Founded in 2002, RHQN represents 37 rural hospitals around the state. Members of RHQN partner to purchase expensive medical equipment and share networking services.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a division of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, recently awarded RHQN $1.5 million to help maintain high-quality standards of service.
The doctors, nurses and staff at Lincoln maintain a sense of small-town hospitality, Shillam says. The county's population of 10,000 allows for employees to treat their patients like neighbors.
"It comes down to people. You have good people here," Shillam says. "Small towns have good, salt-of-the-earth people. Everybody knows each other."
Lincoln Hospital's six doctors know many of their patients. A doctor could be performing surgery on someone who regularly sits next to him or her at church on Sunday mornings, Shillam says.